Myanmar activists find ways to protest as EU prepares sanctions on junta

March 22, 2021
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Myanmar activists find ways to protest as EU prepares sanctions on junta

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Protesters honked car horns in Myanmar on Monday and planted posters in an empty square to avoid arrest, injury or death as the EU prepare to impose sanctions on 11 people linked to last coup.

At least 250 people have been killed so far in anti-junta protests which the security forces were trying to stamp out, according to figures from the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners activist group.

“The number of murders has reached an unbearable extent, which was why we will not be able to avoid imposing sanctions,” German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas told reporters as he arrived in Brussels for a meeting with his EU counterparts.

The names of 11 people involved in the coup and repression of demonstrators would be made public after the meeting, the EU’s foreign policy Chief Josep Borrell said.

They would be the bloc’s most significant response to the coup so far.

According to diplomats and two internal documents seen by Reuters last week, the EU is also planning to target companies “generating revenue for, or providing financial support to, the Myanmar Armed Forces”.

“We don’t intend to punish the people of Myanmar but those who blatantly violate human rights,” Maas said.

A spokesman for the junta did not respond to calls seeking comment. He has previously said security forces have used force only when necessary.

The Southeast Asian nation has been locked in crisis since the elected government led by Nobel peace laureate Aung San Suu Kyi was overthrown by the military on Feb 1.

The violence has forced many citizens to think up novel ways to express their rejection of a return to army rule.

In downtown areas of the commercial capital Yangon, motorists honked car horns in response to a call on social media to mark the one-month anniversary of the launch of one of the biggest demonstrations since the coup.

In the western town of Mindat in Chin State, protesters planted scores of posters in a square in front of the main market saying “Military dictatorship must fail”.

In the latest violence, one person was killed in the country’s second city of Mandalay, aid workers and news reports said.

Four people were killed and several wounded in the city on Sunday when security forces opened fire as residents tried to resist efforts by the military to set up a base in a school.

One man was shot dead and several were wounded when police opened fire on a group setting up a barricade in the central town of Monywa, a doctor there said on Sunday as a community group issued a call on Facebook for blood donors.

“Sniper, sniper,” people can be heard shouting in a video clip shortly after the man was shot in the head in Monywa and more shots rang out.

State media said that men on motorcycles attacked a member of the security forces who later died. The military said two policemen were killed in earlier protests.

The junta said the Nov. 8 election won by Suu Kyi’s party was fraudulent, an accusation rejected by the electoral commission.

Military leaders have promised a new election but have not set a date.

Asian neighbours, who have for years avoided criticising each other, have begun speaking out.

Singapore Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan would visit Brunei Darussalam before going to Malaysia and Indonesia, which are seeking an urgent meeting of Southeast Asia’s ASEAN regional grouping, of which Myanmar was a member.

Heng Swee Keat, deputy prime minister of Singapore, said his country was “appalled by the violent crackdowns against civilians” and called for a return to the democratic transition.

The island-state, which has deep economic ties with Myanmar, has previously called the military action a “national shame”.

The BBC said on Monday that one of its reporters in Myanmar who was detained by plainclothes men three days ago had been freed.

Aung Thura, from the BBC’s Burmese service, was detained on Friday along with a journalist who worked for the domestic Mizzima news service.

There was no immediate word on the whereabouts of the Mizzima reporter.

Australian media reported that two Australian business consultants were detained as they tried to leave Myanmar, but it was not clear why.

An Australian foreign ministry spokesperson said it was providing consular assistance but declined to comment further for privacy reasons.

Sean Turnell, an Australian economic adviser to deposed leader Suu Kyi, was detained last month.

The army has not announced any charges against Turnell, who was among nearly 2,000 people the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners says, have been detained since the coup.

“Every day I imagine the moment my phone rings and you are at the other end of the line, telling me you are your way home.

“I pray for that day to be soon. In the meantime, I irrevocably believe that you are still treated well, with dignity and respect.”

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